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Newspapers & Tornadoes
Aug 1, 2014
I've never lived in Wessington Springs, but we read the town's weekly paper, the True Dakotan, every week at the magazine office because we're fans of the Wenzel family publishers.
I've always appreciated the way they capture in black and white and occasional color the pulse of their town.
Since a June 18th tornado devasted the community, we've watched with ever-more appreciation on how the Wenzels lovingly record the long road back to normalcy. First, they published all the emergency news that had to be known. Then they took stock of what was lost and what was left. Now they're highlighting and encouraging the restoration. This week we learned that the Zion Lutheran Church, a skyline landmark to the town, stands strong enough to be repaired. It is 98 years old. "And the heart of the church, the people inside worshipping every Sunday for the past 100 years hopefully will continue for many years to come," wrote Duke Wenzel.
South Dakota has some 150 weekly newspapers. A good share of what you read in those papers cannot be found in daily papers. It won't be found in blogs like this. It won't be anywhere online in any trusted and easily-available format. All the above media have a place — but I've yet to see how the online world can do what the Wenzels do in any sustainable fashion.
I can't imagine the comfort that the True Dakotan has provided to the people of Wessington Springs in the past five weeks. A terrible tornado changed their world, but some degree of reality came back around on Tuesday when the paper came to their mailbox. And the next Tuesday. And the next.
We're a little partial to magazines, naturally. But I can only dream of providing the community service that the Wenzels have given since June 18 — and long before June 18.